Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brooks Launch 3-Subtle Changes Make a Big Difference

Review by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run
For runners seeking a performance trainer with a conventional heel to toe drop, the Launch 3 makes two welcome changes from the Launch 2: a less constricting upper in the mid foot arch accomplished with thinner 3D printed overlays and a new forefoot rubber that is distinctly more energetic and  softer. On the minus side, the toe bumper while the same design is of a thicker material making the toe area feel a touch "pointier". The ride remains very similar: well supported, decently firm with a fine if narrow forefoot feel and a stable if somewhat "blocky" heel due to the 10mm drop.

Here is how Brooks describes the Launch 3's key features

Running Warehouse has the following stats for the Launch 3. 0.1oz lighter but all other stats remain the same as Launch 2.
Stack height: 27mm heel, 17mm forefoot, 10mm heel-toe offset
Weight: 9.8 oz/278grams (men’s size 9), 7.9 oz/224grams (women’s size 7)
MSRP: $100. Available January 2016

Upper and Fit
The Launch 3 fit me true to size with light socks. Wider feet may have issues with the toe box and the thicker toe bumper.
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
The Launch 2 and 3 while on the same last have very different uppers, a very good thing. The upper overlays are mainly now 3D printed, a process with less waste and greater precision in width, pattern, and thickness than heat bonded overlays. Gone is the relatively heavy silver logo overlay and the wider overlays leading from the heel to the arch area. For me these changes translated it not only a more comfortable mid foot fit, less constraining under the arch in particular but also a smoother transition. 
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
 One can clearly see the thicker toe bumper of the Launch 3 in the photo above. The thin laces of the Launch 2 are replaced by round fat ones which provide a more secure yet also more comfortable wrap of the foot. The forefoot mesh of the Launch 3 has a touch more structure to it.
Launch 2 (left) Launch 3 (right)

The heel counter is slightly higher in the Launch 3. Overall heel fit is excellent with no need to lace lock.

Midsole and Outsole
No obvious changes to the midsole that I can see. Still Brooks BioMoGo DNA which for me feels best when there is less thicknesses of it as it is quite stiff. 
Launch 3 (top) Launch 3 (bottom)

The biggest difference between Launch 2 and Launch 3 is the forefoot feel. I put one of each version on and first walked around then ran. The forefoot landing is distinctly softer on Launch 3. Not mushy or unstable but just the right touch of give to smooth out the Launch 2's somewhat harsher feel up front. It's a different rubber compound of approximately the same thicknesses as on Launch 2 so clearly some magic stuff. Brooks calls this forefoot improvement "The Forefoot Energy Zone- delivering great responsiveness and springy toe off". Very true and more of what is claimed than Launch 2 but I wouldn't quite put the Launch in the same springy class as say Adios Boost. 

Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
Ride, Comparisons,Conclusions
The Launch 3 is a very decent performance trainer. We can't really say "lighter" performance trainer as at 9.8oz it is heavier than similar performance trainers such as the feather light Nike Lunar Tempo at 6.8 oz,adidas Boston Boost 5 at 8.5 oz or Altra Impulse at 8.6oz and it is just 0.2oz lighter than the adidas Energy Boost. I have to assume the weight comes from the density of the midsole, the considerable outsole coverage, and while 3D printed the beefy upper. 
The ride is in no way to firm or to soft, it's right in the middle. A bit stiff in the forefoot and blocky in the heel, they feel best for me at moderate tempo paces. Launch has a better cushioned if more blocky feeling heel than my Shoe of the Year, the Altra Impulse. The Launch's 27mm heel vs.17mm in the Impulse sure helps in that department, it has a well cushioned and stable heel. They are stiffer flexing up front than Impulse with its InnerFlex channels and thus not quite as silky smooth on transition. Taking the Launch 3 down to a 24-25mm heel would I think help smooth the ride and drop the weight.
The new upper sure helps the overall fit, feel, and ride when compared to the Launch 2. An upper that holds the foot to the platform but doesn't contribute to overall stiffness and feels smooth and not overly constrained under way is the essence of this improvement. I scratch my head a bit over the thicker toe bumper material which makes the 3 feel somewhat pointier and more constrained up front than the 2. No issues for me, but given the rest of the new upper holds the foot so well, and the last is overall quite narrow, I wonder why this change was made. 
The Brooks Launch 3 is for me a significant improvement over the Launch 2. Much more my kind of shoe than the somewhat ponderous Ghost with essentially the same stack. It is amazing that changes, some that can't even be "seen" such as the new forefoot rubber, make such a noticeable difference in ride and feel. Smoother running, with a more energetic and softer forefoot, and a better executed upper the Launch 3 does not radically change the Launch 2, it improves it. 

Score 4.65 out of 5
-0.15 for weight
-0.1 for somewhat blocky high heel
-0.1 for pointy toe and thick toe bumper.
I would score the Launch 2  4.5.

The Brooks Launch 3 was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely those of the author.

Get the Brooks Launch 3 at our partner site Running Warehouse
Men's here
Women's here
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The Brooks Launch 3 can also be purchased from Road Trail Run partner sites below. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sam's 2015 Running Favorites

Article by Sam Winebaum Editor Road Trail Run

My Year in Running
I had a decent year in running with just shy of 2000 miles of fortunately injury free running, 6 decent half marathons with my best a 1:38.38 at the very hilly Mount Desert Island Half, Boston, a couple of 25K trail races, a 10K and two 5 milers. Not to bad for a 58 year old with many miles in the legs.  I was lucky enough to test and review dozens of shoes, some apparel, and a store full of fitness electronics for my new side gig writing the tech wearables column for Competitor Magazine.  I spent more time at home base in NH than in Park City this year so my running emphasis leaned towards the roads.

Road Running Shoes

It is very tough to pick favorites and winners in a year where there were so many great shoes. The industry and I moved away from the extremes of maximal and minimal shoes with many well cushioned super light shoes that were in my sweet spot of a well cushioned yet stable forefoot and a heel area that is cushioned but not too soft and unstable.

I moved away from my 2014 favorite the adidas Adios Boost as I found alternatives with a bit more forefoot cushion and flexibility. The Hoka Huaka I liked so much in 2014 was not replaced, wait till 2016! and the popular Hoka Clifton 2 while a fine shoe was still too soft for me and a bit disconnected from the road.

Uppers continued to evolve with lighter materials, 3D printing and somewhat wider softer material toe boxes most often with the foot held in place with firmer toe bumpers more traditionally seen in trail shoes. Sometimes it all came together maginficently such as in the Topo Magnifly and Salomon S-Lab Wings, other times strange misses in detail kept shoes from a wow factor all around. Unless it was a total upper disaster I forgive these small details as the ride for me is the supreme test.

Every Day Trainer
Both my everyday trainer winners came to market very late in the year. Both reflect traditional shoe companies carefully considering the impact of the maximum cushion light weight Hoka Clifton and coming up with their own answers to that challenge. Both are so close in specs and ride that sorting out the winner was difficult indeed.

Winner: Saucony Everun Triumph ISO 2. 
My kind of shoe. A lively flexible enough forefoot for the cushion. A somewhat wider than "normal" forefoot upper but a well held one The Everun TPU cushion elements give a lively rebound, maybe making them a touch too soft in the heel. Miles go by easy and quite fast in this 10.2 oz 31/22mm cruiser. My review here

Honorable Mention: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v6.
This relatively light, same weight as the ISO2 premium trainer has just the right heel firmness for me. The forefoot ride is a bit soft but oh so protective. The upper is where 1080 loses a few points. Not quite as secure in the heel and forefoot area as my winner. My review here.

Race and Light Trainer

Winner: Altra Impulse
This shoe was a huge surprise. Sort of "pushed" on me by Altra at Outdoor Retailer I was skeptical about running a "support" shoe. Well, I guess it was the kind of support I need..  Impulse has a bit of light stability from outsole Stabli Pods and especially a combination of a full contact forefoot with thick rubber yet with just the right longer, smooth flex and enough cushion due to the innovative InnerFlex channels through the midsole which compress. As Peter Stuart said in his Impulse review, "a Newton in reverse". I ran my three fall half marathons in them and was delighted by their performance on flats and hills and especially at speed. Not a fan of Zero Drop I put a little heel wedge in them and was as pleased as can be. My review

Honorable Mention: Asics LyteRacer RS4

This Japan favorite was brought in as a limited edition by Running Warehouse.  Light weight at  7.3 oz  with 25mm heel/ 16mm forefoot stack, this 9mm drop light racer trainer ran similarly to the Adios Boost with a touch softer forefoot and a Trusic midfoot element to give it a bit of stability. Not quite as smooth running and stable as the Impulse or Adios up front it was a go to shoe for shorter tempo days. My review here.

Honorable Mention: Nike Lunar Tempo
This super cushioned and very light 6.8 oz trainer was my Boston shoe and a most comfortable and trouble free choice indeed, Not exactly a speedster due to its softness and relaxed upper it pampers the feet. In fact it is my favorite lounging around shoe as well. My review here.

My Road Shoe of the Year
Altra Impulse
This "stability" shoe puts new meaning into what stability means. Stable as in straight ahead, great ground contact yet with superb forgiving firm cushion in the forefoot, the heel being a bit firm. A great ride at speed with just the right smooth flex for me.

Trail & Hybrid Road/Trail Shoes

I ran fewer trail miles this year than in the past but some clear winners emerged.

  • Boost came to adidas trail shoes in the XT Boost, Raven, and Response Trail Boost. Not much seen at retail, these three fine shoes deserve notice especially the light XT Boost and the deeply lugged but road friendly Response Trail Boost.  
  • Salomon finally came up with a light yet highly protective S-Lab shoe with the S-Lab Wings featuring an upper that is not only a work of art but dialed for the roughest terrain. 
  • Altra missed it for me with their Lone Peak 2.5 but hit one out of the park with their NeoShell Lone Peak, not only waterproof but an upper that works for their Foot Shaped wider toe box by actually holding the foot, kind of important for trails. 
  • La Sportiva's Mutant with its ski boot liner type upper and relatively flexible forefoot was a strong performer on the roughest stuff and weighed a surprising less than 11oz. 
  • Inov-8's TerraClaw 250, classified as a trail shoe, proved as able on the road something about lugs providing a bit of extra compliant cushion, same as on the Response Trail.
  • Finally, in a surprise, in large part due to tis outstanding upper, the Topo Magnifly, a road shoe proved to be a very capable secure shoe on smoother Park City single tracks.

Readers may wonder about the superb Hoka One One Challenger ATR. It was my 2014 Trail Shoe of the Year here

Rough Terrain

Winner: Salomon S-Lab Wings review

Homorable mention: LaSportiva Mutant review

Honorable mention: Altra Lone Peak NeoShell (review coming)

Shorter, Fast Trail Running

Winner: adidas XT Boost review

Road/Trail Hybrid

Winner: Topo Athletic Magnifly review

Trail/Road Hybrid:

Winner: adidas Response Trail Boost review

Homorable Mention: Inov-8 TerraClaw 250 review

My Trail Shoe of the Year
adidas XT Boost (review)  The Adios Boost of trails. Based on a Japan favorite adidas road racing flat the  XT is versatile, light weight, heavily lugged.  It goes anywhere with agility, great upper support, and decent underfoot protection for all but the real rough stuff. Not a shoe for rough trails for me but for pure fast fun trail or road it's a winner.

My Run Shoe of the Year
Altra Impulse (my review, Peter Stuart's review)

Reviews of all the shoes mentioned in this article and many more can be found on my review summary page here.

Running Electronics & Gadgets

I don't know where to start! With my column at Competitor Magazine giving me the opportunity to test every watch, add on sensor, and fitness band under the sun I put a lot of gadgets through their paces in the second half of 2015.

Winner: Polar M400 running watch, V800 multi-sport watch, A360 fitness band.
Wait you said you would pick a "winner". Well here the Polar Flow online and app platform combines with superb hardware, including the easiest screens to see in sunlight and low light, to create what I have found is the most reliable and complete offering. All the watches and A360 fitness band are beautifully built, synch more reliably than others, and the online platform while not as elaborate as some is complete, clearly understood and easy to navigate. And.. all the Polar watches now auto-synch with Strava, do smart phone notifications, and track activity and sleep.

Honorable Mention: Suunto Ambit3 Run and Ambit3 Peak
Rugged with an excellent online platform the Ambit3 is the mountain runner's choice. I particularly like their focus on recovery status, simply displayed on the watch.

Honorable Mention: Garmin Vivoactive
This tiny square very light GPS watch has it all, even a golf app, to go with all the running features.

Honorable Mention: Epson RunSense SF-810
This "pure" running watch has superbly long battery GPS and the most reliable wrist heart rate sensing I have seen to date. No smart notifications or activity tracking but unique features for the serious runner, the real serious runner as this is Meb's watch: things like stride length, multiple configurable auto laps, instant non workout heart rate reading.

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run.

See Peter Stuart, fast road specialist 2015 Favorites here
See Jeff Valliere, the vertical trail master from Boulder's 2015 Run Favorites here

Thank you very much for reading Road Trail Run in 2015. Here's to a fabulous 2016 on the roads and trails!  Please follow us at the links below

Click to Like & Follow Road Trail Run Twitter: @roadtrailrun

Find many of Sam's Favorites at RoadTrailRun partner site

Free 2 Day Shipping & Return Shipping     90 Day "No Sweat" Returns

Running Warehouse Europe

Jeff Valliere's 2015 Run Favorites

Article by Jeff Valliere

Running Shoes
Trail Shoe of the Year:  The NorthFace Ultra MT
The MT embodies the ideal blend of protection, stability, control, quality, weight and traction, thus making it my favorite mountain shoe when I really want to push for a PR on tough terrain.

Runner Up: Salomon S Lab Wings SG
It was a near flip of the coin, but runner up would be the Salomon S Lab Wings SG, all of the same qualities as the Ultra MT, but the Wings SG has a SLIGHTLY harder feel to it than the Ultra MT.  Still a flip of the coin.

Honorable Mention: Hoka Challenger ATR
It is hard to beat the all day cushion, comfort, very low weight and traction of the Challenger ATR (for racing or training).

For simply training, all day on the feet and a good blend of protection, cushion, traction, fit, without much concern for weight, the New Balance Leadville 1210 v2 has it all.  Runner up in this category would be the Brooks Cascadia 10.

Road Shoe of the Year: Altra Paradigm
The Altra Paradigm 1.5 (for training and racing) was a road favorite.  Despite not being much of a zero drop fan, the Paradigm 1.5 felt amazing with Hoka like cushioning, very low weight and a fast and responsive feel.


Salomon S Lab Sense Set:  always looking for unobtrusive ways to carry things, I recently purchased the Sense Set running vest.  I am amazed at how much I can pack into it, my iPhone 6, Microspikes, windbreaker, water, gloves, beanie, food and more.  More amazingly, it fits like an extension of your clothing, does not bounce one bit and you hardly know you are wearing it.  Whether you want to pack it full, or just carry your phone, this vest is perfect. Sam's review

Suunto Ambit 3 - accurate, reliable, easy to use, tough, bluetooth compatible, great software, hard to beat.

Ultraspire Lumen 600 Light Belt - 600 lumens from the waist, lightweight, unobtrusive, very long battery life. My review.

Oh, how can I forget one of my most key pieces of clothing items, the Pearl Izumi Fly Endurance Shorts (for 2015, or any of the Ultra or Ultra split predecessors with the same pocketing system).  The ability to stuff them with so much food and gear, yet with no bounce makes them an essential piece of clothing.

Author Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

See Peter Stuart, fast masters road specialist's 2015 Run Favorites here
See Editor Sam Winebaum's 2015 Run Favorites here

Thank you very much for reading Road Trail Run in 2015. Here's to a fabulous 2016 on the roads and trails! Please follow us at the links below

Click to Follow Road Trail Run Twitter: @roadtrailrun
Find many of Jeff's Favorites at RoadTrailRun partner site
Running Warehouse
Free 2 Day Shipping & Return Shipping     90 Day "No Sweat" Returns

Peter Stuart's 2015 Run Favorites

By Peter Stuart

The Gear in Review...

It’s been a great year for running gear. For me 2015 is the year that running shoes landed right in the sweet spot. I love shoes that disappear on the run, are light but have enough cushioning to get me through big mileage. It seems like many shoe companies have figured out how to get to this goldilocks mix of great cushion and light weight. This was the first year I’ve regularly written reviews, so I’ve had to get my head around more shoes and really think about what works for me and why. I’ve decided to break shoes up into categories for this piece—so here we go:

Everyday Running

3rd place: Altra Impulse
The Altra Impulse is a late surprise—I just got them a month or two ago and have never run in Altra before. They’re Zero drop, they’re a stability shoe and they’re medium weight. That said, they have channels and voids under the ball of the foot and they’re really fun to run in. They speed up nicely, they leave me feeling pretty fresh after long miles and they are holding up exceptionally well at 100 miles. My review.

2nd Place: Skechers GoRun4
The Skechers GoRun 4 is a delightful shoe—definitely the most fun running shoe for me this year—yes FUN! I know it’s not even from this year, but I enjoyed running in it all year long. Cushioned, light and comfortable. One of those shoes that feels really good to me no matter what tempo I’m running. There’s plenty of protection up front, the materials feel better to me than past Skechers and they’re actually not terrible looking.

1st Place: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
There’s a lot to love about this shoe. It’s light, the transition is terrific, they’ve held up well for me (over 400 miles on first pair, up over 200 on second). The Zante was practically all I ran in for a couple of months and I used them for Boston too. They held up great in the rain at Boston and they’re still a really fun go to for me. They’ve slipped a bit on the list as some newer shoes have come, but I’m looking forward to the Zante 2. The Zante is a hair tight around my mid foot and I get a little bit of fatigue under the ball of my feet on long runs. Other than that, just a terrific shoe to run in.


3rd Place: Pearl Izumi N0 V2
The pearl is a barely there slipper-like race shoe. There’s not a ton of cushion and I don’t think I’d take them longer than 10k, but they are crazy comfortable, disappear on the feet and fun to run in. I don’t feel like they give me quite as much push off of the forefoot as my two other favorites of the year, and they’re not super versatile,but they are fun to work out in. My review.

2nd place: New Balance Vazee Pace
The pace is on the same lovely last as the Zante, with a little less of a wrap on the mid foot. They have lots of miles in them due to great coverage with rubber, are super light and really like to go fast. They are a fun fartlek and spadework shoe—if a tiny bit firm. I’ve had a lot of fun in these and they hold up well for long runs too. They fall to 2nd because they are just a little heavier and firmer than my favorite shoes. My review.

1st Place: Asics Hyperspeed 6
Sure, these are a year (or two) old, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. This shoe achieves a magical combination for me. They are light, light, light and they are bouncy and protective as well. Such a great race shoe. I feel really fast in these. They feel good fast, they’re fine for cruising around in and they are my marathon PR shoe. The only downside—to be expected—is that they don’t have a ton of miles in them. The rubber on the bottom tends to wear down pretty quickly. I know these aren’t enough shoe for the marathon distance for everybody, but I LOVE them. They’re also a great 5k, 10k and half shoe. I just PR’d my 10k in them a couple of weeks ago and PR’d my half marathon in them this past weekend.

Recovery/Easy Days

Skechers Ultra Road
This is the most surprising shoe on my list. Surprising to me I mean. On paper this shoe is the antithesis of everything I would like. It’s heavy, it’s stiff and the stack height is pretty big. That said, I’ve really, really enjoyed running in the Go Run Ultra Road. It’s cushy, but the toe-off is really firm. They never feel soggy or like they’re sapping energy and they fit my foot great. I love the knit upper and they look and feel like new after over 100 miles. I love them for recovery miles, but they also do just fine when I pick up the pace. There’s a certain bounce to them that’s really enjoyable. Perfect recovery day shoe for me. The knit upper has held up well and I’m looking forward to the knit making its way onto the GoRun 4.

My Run Shoe of the Year
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

Other Gear:

Sugoi RSR Split short
For Southern California weather these are the best shorts I’ve ever worn. They’re super light, they have a back pocket and a key pocket, they are split on the sides, but connected at the bottom, so there’s not a lot of exposed thigh, and most importantly the materials are so soft and light that the shorts just disappear. I don’t know why I don’t have more pairs of these...
 Pearl Izumi Fly Endurance short
This is a great long-distance race short. There’s a zip pocket and two little side pockets for gels. They fit well and are very lightweight. I haven’t had any chafing problems and they’ve stayed comfortable in extremely rainy races too.


Swiftwick Aspire
Love these socks, they do great in heat and rain. Ran Boston in them and slogged through 26.2 wet miles with nary a blister. Only bummer is that they’ve discontinued the “pulse” line of socks which were a bit thinner and were my go to race socks. These things last and last and last.


Headsweats “Supervisor”:
I’m new to the Visor game, as I’ve always worn random hats from races, but really enjoy the fit, they keep sweat out of my eyes and seem to allow some heat to escape from my dome.

Hydration and Run Packs

Orange Mud Hydra Quiver and Gear Quiver:
I’ve always struggled to find a comfortable way to carry water for long runs. I finally settled on hand-held water bottles, and though I didn’t love running with something in my hand it beat dehydration. This year, for some personal reasons I started to need to carry a phone as well. I’ve always refused to carry a phone while running, but I just couldn’t be unavailable for 2-3 hours at a time. Adding a phone to a handheld water bottle made for a one-armed workout and felt like it was affecting my stride and gait. Enter Orange Mud. I’m admittedly very narrowly experienced in vests and the like, but I am sort of a princess about what I’ll wear and carry. The Orange Mud Hydra Quiver is a great solution for me on long days and I use the hydra-quiver on shorter days. They’re both terrific.
Hydra Quiver
If I were just getting one vest, it would be this one. It holds a 20-24 oz water bottle in the back, has a pocket in the back for phone and some other stuff and has two expandable pockets on the shoulders for Gu, headphones, whatever. I was afraid there would be a ton of chafing with this vest, but it’s been remarkably chafe free, even when I’ve worn a singlet, or (gasp) had to go shirtless. There’s no bounce, it’s easy to get the water out and I’ve found it to be comfortable and unobtrusive—even when I’m doing speed work. The only tweak I’ve made to mine is to switch out the Orange Mud bottle for a slightly smaller Ultimate Direction 20 oz “kicker” bottle. It’s got a little handle on it so it’s easy to get the bottle out. Love this vest.
Gear Quiver
This is essentially the Hydra Quiver without the bottle holder. There’s room for a small
fuel belt flask, a phone and the same shoulder pockets for nutrition. It disappears on my back and makes it very easy for me to have a phone with me.

Sometimes I like to run with headphones. Sometimes I don’t. I always like to hear the runner, biker or car about to hit me, so I prefer headphones that don’t fully isolate sound. I’ve discovered the joy of bluetooth wireless headphones this year and have tried just a couple of different ones. My favorite is the Plantronics “BackBeat Fit” bluetooth wireless headphone. Design is simple, battery life is good, they stay plenty stable on the ears at any pace and the water resistance seems really good. Controls are simple and intuitive (which isn’t always the case). Overall I’m pretty happy with these. I wanted to like the Yurbuds wireless headphones better than I do. They tend to start sliding out of my ears when things get really sweaty, and on long, hot days the sweat would just start making the headphones go crazy. The controls would skip forward, skip back, glitch out and shut off. I really like the yurbuds wired headphones— they’re more comfortable than the Plantronics or the Yurbuds bluetooth—but I’m happier wireless.

See Road Trail Run Editor Sam Winebaum's 2015 Run Favorites here
See Jeff Valliere, the vertical trail master of Boulder's 2015 Run Favorites here

Peter Stuart's Running Bio
My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

Thank you very much for reading Road Trail Run in 2015. Here's to a fabulous 2016 on the roads and trails! Please follow us at the links below

Click to Follow Road Trail Run Twitter: @roadtrailrun
Find many of Peter's Favorites at RoadTrailRun partner site
Running Warehouse
Free 2 Day Shipping & Return Shipping     90 Day "No Sweat" Returns

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review- New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v6: A Softer, Smoother Premium Ride Comes to Fresh Foam

Review by Sam Winebaum

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v6

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v6  sits at the top of New Balance's premium performance run line. It is a direct and very close "running" competitor to the Saucony Everun Triumph ISO 2 we recently reviewed here, so close we have difficulty telling them apart but there are differences. Read on.
I am calling the 1080 New Balance's refined and carefully considered response to the maximal trend set by Hoka.
I have have run all the prior Fresh Foam shoes: 980, 980 Trail, Boracay, and Zante (reviews for all here at my summary page). For the first time I found  a Fresh Foam shoe that has:
  • a truly smooth and highly cushioned plush ride
  • a fine upper, maybe a bit too comfortable and unstructured in the forefoot, but wider troublesome feet will be happy 
  • more flexibility for sure than predecessors as there are flex grooves and cutouts in the sole
  • a less harsh feel on the road than any of its Fresh Foam predecessors. 
"Always in Beta" is New Balance's slogan these days and the 1080 is a perfect example of this iterative approach in action. An incredibly well done shoe.

Highly Cushioned, Reasonably Light
The 1080 is highly cushioned with a 30mm heel/22mm forefoot 8mm drop according to Running Warehouse blog, so very close in stack to the Hoka Clifton 2's with its 29/24mm and almost identical to the Triumph ISO 2's  10.2oz weight and 31/22mm stack.
At a very reasonable 10.4oz/293g with an 8mm drop it is in the sweet spot of what I and many runners favor for an every day durable trainer. For those wanting a highly cushioned, more flexible, more conventional shoe with decent forefoot flexibility, likely long term durability and support it is a great option. Comments later in this review as to how a future version could potentially be lighter and even better.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v6

Midsole and Outsole
The midsole uses New Balance's Fresh Foam technology of a single slab of foam with convex hexagons on the medial inner sidewalls for a bit more support and firmness on contact and concave hexagons on the lateral side for a bit more deflection and cushion feel. When combined with the new outsole configuration the cushioning is plush but not mushy with no harsh stiff or awkward transitions in feel during the gait cycle beyond a bit of ponderous feel at slower speeds under the arch area.
,The 1080 fit me true to size. The upper is a very soft, beautiful engineered mesh upfront over the toes connecting to a tongue with a bootie of stretchy mesh running to the top lace tie hole. A thick, maybe too thick and thus heavy saddle of thick material wraps the midfoot. Does its thickness add unnecessary weight?   A very similar mid foot construction to the Triumph ISO 2 with its ISO Fit upper but in ISO the saddle is thinner material. Nonetheless, the foot is well held at mid foot but a bit hampered by thin stretchy laces. I had to do the lace lock to hold my heel as I like. The forefoot mesh while beautifully soft and stretchy doesn't hold my forefoot quite as securely as I would like or as well as the Triumph ISO 2 with its slightly more substantial less stretchy and maybe a bit narrower forefoot does. I think part of the reason for such as soft unstructured forefoot upper may be to improve flexility, the Boracay and 980 had stiff upper materials which I believe contributed to the overall stiffness of the shoe. This said runners with wider or trickier feet should be very happy with the fit of the 1080.

Fresh Foam Boracay (left) New Balance 1080v6 (right)
The outsole uses a hexagon pattern as on the Fresh Foam Boracay (see above) and 980 but... the hexagons are spaced wider throughout on the 1080 and yes there are not only 2 flex grooves but cutouts to the midsole in the contact area between the 2 flex grooves.  The thick hard black plug at the rear puts longer lasting rubber in all the right places for good long term durability.  The flex is far better than the older models but still fairly stiff. There is not much flex back of the last flex groove. I found Boracay to be particularly stiff in the cold when the rubber hardens and the wider spacing of the lugs on the 1080 should help a lot. Big improvement in road feel but I wish the flex extended further back and those 2 flex grooves were even wider or deeper yet.

New Balance 1080v6 outsole

Ride and Comparisons
This is one plush and smooth ride. Similar cushioning to a Hoka Clifton at the heel and maybe a touch less at the forefoot but more flexible. The upper of the 1080 will fit a wider variety of feet than the Clifton's will. The flexibility is decent for such a thick shoe. Not exactly a fast shoe, it moves along at a stately smooth pace without any mushy or harsh feelings.

As stated at the very beginning of the review the ride is very similar to the Triumph ISO 2, so similar I had to take them out for multiple runs to attempt to describe the differences. I will try...

  • Heel: the 1080 has a touch firmer and more stable heel. The Triumph ISO 2 heel with its TPU Everun gives at bit more bounce but is slightly less stable at slow speeds back on the heels. The upper heel hold in the Triumph with its low plush collar is slightly more secure. Still would give heel advantage to the 1080 over all
  • Mid Foot: Very close to the same as the ISO Triumph but with more thickness of saddle material and maybe weight.
  • Forefoot: Advantage Triumph ISO 2 for me. The somewhat more substantial upper material holds my narrower foot better, wider feet likely will prefer the 1080. The chevron outsole of the Triumph flexes better and further back than the 1080. A touch more ground feel with the Triumph.
New Balance is "Always in Beta" and they prove it with the 1080, They have improved their Fresh Foam concept significantly from what I can see adding some cushioning stack and improving the outsole geometry to make the shoe smoother running and more flexible than predecessor Fresh Foam shoes such as the Boracay and 980.  The 1080 is one of the best every day trainers I have run in this year. Well cushioned, reasonably light, decently flexible for its stack it is a good choice for long miles days, heavier neutral runners, and those needing a soft somewhat wide toe box. Not exactly a speedster or a tempo shoe but decently light it would be a good choice for hillier marathons. Highly recommended.

Score: 4.70 out of 5
-0.1 for somewhat loose heel hold and thin laces
-0.15 for lack of structure of forefoot upper and fairly stiff flex
-0.05 for price of $150. Yes many shoes are up there these days but a somewhat lower price would make the shoe more accessible.

Available now from New Balance. Other retailers soon. $150.

The Fresh Foam 1080 was provided free of charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely our own

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

See our coverage from The Running Event in Austin, TX. 2016 previews from Hoka One One,, Altra, On, Pearl  Izumi, Salaming, and Salomon HERE.

Review-Montrail Trans Alps: Top Tier Trail Protection,Traction, Durability and All Day Comfort

Review by Jeff Valliere

Montrail Trans Alps
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
Initial Impressions
The first thing I noticed upon taking the Trans Alps out of the box is that this is a beast of a shoe and brought back memories of the Montrail Hardrock from ~10 or so years ago, but this shoe is vastly different.  Though a bit heavy at an advertised weight of 12.5 oz. (for a men’s 9), this shoe feels lighter on the foot than I would have imagined.  The Trans Alps is sturdy, well built and protective, with a very aggressively lugged outsole.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere


Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
The upper of the Trans Alps has a mix of stitched and welded overlays that do a fantastic job of keeping the foot in place and provide excellent control, the mesh is adequately breathable and the toe is well protected by a sturdy toe bumper that can withstand just about any hit.  The upper is overall quite comfortable, though the seams that form the gusseted tongue are were somewhat noticeable early on when wearing a thin sock.
 I was able to reposition the tongue though to minimize this distraction and over time, I noticed it less and less as I broke the shoe in.  Also on my first few runs, I noticed that my heel did not feel very locked down and even though it was not lifting, it felt a bit loose and unstable.  I moved the laces from the uppermost eyelet to the lower optional eyelets a little lower and further back and was pleased to find that this solved the problem entirely.  The tongue is of moderate thickness, is just the right height and is gusseted to keep out dirt and debris.  The heel collar is very sturdy and protective and just the right height with good padding.

The Fluidfoam midsole offers moderate cushioning and is complimented by an insole that is on the thicker side, supportive and cradles the foot well.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
Overall, I found the cushioning in the Trans Alps to be somewhat on the firm and end of the spectrum.  Despite being a larger, heavier shoe, it is surprisingly responsive and I felt like I could push the pace on easy to moderate terrain and the Trans Alps could handle it without any trouble, which I attribute in part to the Fluidfoam technology.   Additionally, Montrail employs adaptive support they call Fluidguide.  From their information sheet, Fluidguide is described as:
“Adaptive support for each unique foot-strike and ever-changing terrain.  Ruts, rocks and roots take their toll, often causing ankles to roll inward regardless of natural pronation.  FluidGuide delivers on-demand support, slowing the rate of pronation for each individual foot strike, allowing for a natural, balanced stride.  Neutral runners and natural pronators will feel a cushioned supportive midsole.  The blended densities eliminate any hard glue lines between midsole on posting, resulting in a smoother, more comfortable ride.”

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

While I admit to not being able to decipher each of these details specifically, the shoe did handle rough terrain quite well, despite the Trans Alps feeling a bit stiff overall.  Over the course of several runs though, I did notice an incremental breaking in period where the shoe softened a bit and became more slightly more conforming.


Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The outsole is without a doubt one of the more aggressively treaded shoes I have seen and grips impressively on a wide range of surfaces.  The well-shaped 6mm lugs are cleverly arranged and are extremely durable.  The rubber compound grabs well on wet or dry rock, as well as a wide range of temperatures.  The Trans Alps also employs rock protection called Trailshield, which is a lightweight flexible material that is co-molded between the outsole and the midsole for underfoot protection from rocks, roots, and just about anything else one may step on.  I run primarily on rocky trails and I never even came close to feeling a zinger, despite deliberately aiming for the pointiest rocks.  I found that on longer runs, this definitely helped reduce foot fatigue.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
The fit of the Trans Alps is true to size, though a touch narrow in the forefoot.  I don’t have a particularly wide foot and the narrowness was not at all bothersome, but noticeable and something that those with wider feet should take into consideration.  As mentioned earlier, I had trouble at first with the heel not feeling locked down, but lacing the rear most optional eyelet solved the issue instantly.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

I was fortunate to test this shoe in a wide variety of conditions and found that this shoe could handle just about anything.  It got excellent grip in muddy conditions, fresh snow, slush, packed/icy snow, wet rock, dry rock, steep dirt, off trail use and even performed reasonably well on short segments of road.  The shoe feels as though it rides a bit high (despite "only" being 25mm heel/17mm forefoot) and though the upper holds the foot well, the Trans Alps felt a bit awkward when pushing really fast on technical terrain, but otherwise feels very stable and do amazingly well at moderate to lower speeds.  Despite flex grooves, the shoe feels a bit stiff and proprioception is somewhat minimal, but I give it a pass, as I see this shoe as more of an all-day trainer or ultra-shoe.

Montrail hit a homerun with the Trans Alps. It is perfectly at home in the mountains and on technical terrain.  I’ll be using this shoe for any of my longer day hikes/runs in the mountains where I know I will need that extra traction, protection and will be encountering steep/loose scree, talus, some snow, off trail, etc… I could also see this as being a great shoe for 100 mile races such as the Hardrock 100, where that added protection and traction will have cumulative gains over a full day or two.  There is also a waterproof Outdry version ($150/14.7 oz.) that will be available as well.  Unfortunately we were not able to test/compare, but it sounds like it would turn an already great shoe into a top notch winter running shoe.

Highs:  Protection, grip, durability, comfort, responsive, breathable.

Lows:  Somewhat narrow, a bit less stable at higher speeds, weight

$130. Available Spring 2016
12.5oz/354g Men's 9, 10.9oz/309g Women's 8
18mm heel/10mm forefoot midsole- Approx. 25mm/17mm full stack inclu. 6mm lugs and outsole.

Score 4.5 out of 5
-0.25 for weight of 12.5 oz on the high end for even highly protective modern trail shoes
-0.1 for narrow forefoot
-0.15 for stability

The Trans Alps was provided to RoadTrailRun at no charge. The reviewers opinions are entirely their own.

Reviewer Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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The Caldorado and Trans Alps are available from the Road Trail Run partner sites below.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Running Event Run Shoe Previews & Photo Gallery: Hoka, Altra, Salming, Pearl Izumi, Topo, Salomon, On

See Road Trail Run's reviews index page Here
Since The Running Event we have reviewed the Pearl Izumi N3, Topo Ultrafly, Hoka Clayton and Tracer, Salming Distance, Speed and T2, On CloudSurfer and many other 2016 shoes. 

I was lucky enough to go to The Running Event in Austin, Texas last week. The Running Event is a trade show for speciality running stores and is like heaven for a run shoe and gear nut like me. Did not disappoint. My main purpose was to report on wearable tech for Competitor Magazine. And there was a lot of it to see and try. My article will publish shortly. I did not go in depth at every shoe company. Many save their introductions for Outdoor Retailer but there was plenty of new on display.

The Headlines
  • Hoka unveils Clifton 3 with...2mm more forefoot last width as well as the Speed Instinct trail racer and a very light TOR Speed 2 Mid WP boot.
  • Altra founder Golden Harper focused on his new Lone Peak 3.0 family: regular, waterproof NeoShell, and a very light Lone Peak Mid
  • Topo Athletic unveiled the UltraFly, a light support shoe, and the zero drop ST-2
  • Salming a Swedish brand, had me try their Distance in their incredible RunLab system.
  • Salomon made subtle yet significant refinements to their S-Lab Wings and Speedcross
  • Pearl Izumi introduced the Trail N3 the most supportive and cushioned trail model
Read on for the details and photos...

Pearl Izumi
New trail runner from PI, the N3.  Substantial cushioning, protection, and traction. From Competitor Magazine: $135, 8mm drop, 10.8oz
Pearl Izumi N3 Trail

Topo Athletic
We loved our Magnifly (review) at Road Trail Run. Topo unveiled a light stability shoe with more cushioning the Ultrafly 28/23mm, 5mm drop 9.2 oz with a 3 layer midsole of variable densities. May 2016.
Topo Ultrafly
Topo Ultrafly
Topo Ultrafly
Topo Ultrafly
Topo Ultrafly
Update read our full Ultrafly review here

Coming June 2016 the ST-2 a  6.2oz,  zero drop, 16mm stack shoe with an easy on off Lycra heel for speed work and indoor training. 
Topo ST-2

Topo ST-2

Topo ST-2

Best of all Topo invited the press to a morning session where, fitting with their mission to only make roomy toe box, low drop, and light weight shoes they also want to help runners Learn.  Not just better form,  but to  help identify and address the underlying causes of form and resulting injury issues through their Acu-Running program here, complete with how to videos. We did 4 simple assessment exercises led by Brad Cox of AcuMobility which identified areas of impaired mobility which affect form.   For me it was in particular  it was my right shoulder area and left hip.  Then using AcuMobility's incredibly versatile Eclipse Roller (coming January 2016) and flat bottom silicone Mobility Ball we worked the areas needing attention.  

Hoka One One

Hoka One One Clayton
We covered the  Clayton at Outdoor Retailer this summer and recently tested and reviewed the upcoming Tracer road racer here. Both are based on Hoka new Pro2Lite dual density midsole, front firmer, rear softer. Pro2Lite stands for Protection Propulsion. There are two types of Pro2Lite midsoles both seeking a dual density softer heel, firmer forefoot: Clayton has a single molded unit with the firmness increasing towards the front of the shoe, the Tracer and Speed Instinct (see coverage below) midsoles' are made of two separate pieces of different firmnesses.
Hoka One One Tracer Dual Density Pro2Lite midsole. Red firmer, White softer

 The Clayton ($150) is 24mm heel/20mm forefoot 7.2 oz light trainer racer. It's outsole (lime green in photos) is RMAT a material with high rebound sitting somewhere between traditional outsole rubber and midsole materials in durability. Available April 2016, we believe this will be a worthy and even lighter road focused eplacement for one of our all time favorites, the Huaka, which will only be sold internationally.

Hoka One One Clayton

Hoka One One Clayton

Clifton 3
The very popular Clifton gets what many have been asking for, a slightly wider toe area. Built on a new last it is 2mm wider in the forefoot so more accommodating of different foot shapes. 8.6 oz 29/24mm 5mm drop remains unchanged. No changes to midsole. There is slightly more outsole coverage in the Clifton 3. $130. Available July 2016.

Hoka One One Clifton 3
Hoka One One Clifton 3
 LEFT Clifton 2       RIGHT Clifton 3

Speed Instinct
Hoka unveiled its first dedicated trail racer, the Speed Instinct. One might think of it as the trail racing cousin of the Tracer. I am betting firmer than Huaka and a fast shoe with decent step in-comfort but not the usual Hoka super cush. 3D printer upper. Pro2Lite dual density midsole, as with Tracer two separate pieces of different density. It has a high abrasion rubber outsole 8.4oz 232 grams 23/20mm 3mm drop.  $130. Launching July 2016.
Hoka One One Speed Instinct

Hoka One One Speed Instinct

Hoka One One Speed Instinct

Tor Speed 2 Mid WP
A 12.9 oz 363g 26mm heel/ 21mm forefoot 5mm drop speed hiker and runner with Vibram Mega Grip outsole and an eVent waterproof breathable upper. Neat color way!  $150. Available July 2016. 

Tor Speed 2 Mid WP

Tor Speed 2 Mid WP
No changes that we heard of but a neat color way. 

Conquest 3
Conquest gets an EVA top layer suspended in RMAT for a responsive firm ride with cushion along with some toe spring snap. Still a dynamic stability shoe. Both the mid foot and forefoot are slightly more accommodating while  the mid foot is designed to be more secure. 31mm heel/ 27mm forefoot, 6mm drop.  $170. Available July.

Conquest 3

Conquest 3
Altra Running
I am always eager to see what Altra Running founder Golden Harper has cooked up.
He was most eager to present his Lone Peak 3.0 family: Lone Peak 3.0, Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell, and Lone Peak 3.0 Mid Neoshell. And well he should be proud as these Lone Peaks take lessons learned and should improve the trail stability of these shoes dramatically. I found the Lone Peak 2.5 not particularly stable on trails due to its unstructured upper, the Lone Peak Neoshell superior in stability,  a welcome touch softer and outstanding on all terrains including roads but heavy. So... what did Golden do?

Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Lone Peak 3.0 
A completely new upper with supportive overlays in the toe area yet still the signature Foot Shaped Toe Box. Lighter by close to an ounce than the 2.5 at a magic sub ten, 9.75 oz 278 grams and with a the slightly softer midsole of the Neoshell.  The Neoshell drops more than an ounce to weigh 10.6 oz, remarkably light for a waterproof upper runner.  The new Lone Peak Mid Neoshell comes in at 12.3 oz 347g, the lightest "boot" runner I have seen to date edging out the Hoka TOR Speed.
Lone Peak 3.0

Lone Peak 3.0

Lone Peak 3.0

Lone Peak 3.0 

Lone Peak 3.0 

As always with Salomon, and especially S-Lab shoes, it's about the details. A shade lighter at 9.7oz 274g for regular outsole and 10.1oz 286g  for SG Soft Ground The S-Lab Wings I like so much (review) is "perfected", if such a thing is possible. Now called the S-Lab Wings 8,the TPU shank is reduced in size and the ProFeel film also reduced in length. The shoe will still have plenty of rock protection but a will have more forefoot flexibility, the key element, but a subtle one,  to improve over the original in my opinion. Subtle changes to the upper include a tweaking of the Sensifit mid foot overlays and the "seat belt" of overlays running from the eyelets to the heel. A supremely capable technical terrain shoe should become even more versatile for smoother terrain and even roads. Available in regular trail terrain and soft ground versions. 
S-Lab Wings
S-Lab Wings Outsoles
Swiss company On had a big presence. They introduced the Cloudflyer a 9.8oz light stability shoe and a lighter 9.7 oz Cloudsurfer.
On Cloudflyer

On Cloudflyer

Last but not least...
Never heard of Salming? I predict you will. 
A Swedish company well known in Europe for squash, handball and floor ball shoes as well as running shoes they made a big splash at The Running Event with not only their beautiful and immaculately crafted shoes but their RunLab in partnership with fellow Swedes Qualisys. 
RunLab is a system of movie studio grade motion capture (400 frames per second) translated to running form analysis. I was tickled to be invited to put my atrocious form to the test... I was given a snazzy run kit and outfitted with 35 stick on shiny reflectors, head to toe. I ran 6 minutes while the system captured my motion and then had a personal analysis by a former Swedish National Track Team coach and Abby of RunRaleighPT who is receiving the first US based RunLab system next week.

Salming RunLab Test Dummy
RunLab Motion Capture

RunLab Results Screen. Gray wave is data from elites. I am below...

Salming The Shoes
Salming Distance


To run the test I was given a pair of the Salming Distance model. I ran my 6 minutes and have been running in them ever since. Beautiful supportive upper, if a bit loose with no tight spots and plenty of toe room at a whole size up from my true to size. Update: now have my true to size and may potentially be a half smaller than true to size for many with other than a thin sock as the front of the toe is low. Very unusual toe to heel smooth support from the Exo Skeleton upper.  Underfoot I initially thought they would be too minimal and firm, but the 3 layer midsole is at the same time firm, responsive, and well cushioned. When combined with just the right outsole firmness, no harsh jarring anywhere.

Salming Ballet Line Geometry
I believe their "ballet line" concept of structured support forward to the mid foot, including a shank similar to the adidas Adios Boost and in my version I believe it is carbon fiber, then even flexibility further forward starting at the ballet line works, and works well.
Salming Distance D1 $155. 5mm drop, 8.4 oz. 238 grams. Available now.

Salming also introduced a more cushioned shoe the Miles. More on Salming soon at Road Trail Run.

See also Competitor Magazine's 40 Run Shoe Sneak Peeks from The Running Event here.

See Road Trail Run's reviews index page here
Since The Running Event we have reviewed the Pearl Izumi N3, Topo Ultrafly, Hoka Clayton and Tracer, Salming Distance, Speed and T2, On CloudSurfer and many other 2016 shoes. 

Reviews of Hoka Speed Instinct and Altra Lone Peak 3 coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

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